Friday, December 12, 2008

'Twas the Week Before Holiday...Break

'Twas the week before "Holiday" (break)
And all through the class
Every student was writing
Descriptive adjectives en masse
The children were nestled
All snug at their desks
While all five of their senses
Danced cozy arabesques
Their principal and teacher
Had called for more "copy"
Of Santa Letters and fantasy stories
No matter how sloppy
Now dashers ---, Now scribblers
Now printers and cursives
On commas! On phrases!
On sentences! and missives
To the top of the pile
Is it right (write) for the stage?
Let's edit, recopy
And smooth draft to "pink page"
I just spent the day, yesterday as a "rover sub" a a local school which was doing an "inservice training day" for all 3rd through 5th grade teachers on new technologies. As I stood outside with the 3rd grade class for the all-school reciting of the flag salute, pledge and motto, I heard the principal remind all students/classes to turn in their synonyms for a few, positive seasonal adjectives. i.e. jolly, merry, happy etc. Names and room numbers had to be on all "Santa Letters" if they were going to be "answered". Aha! Is this some academic leadership?...from an administrator? Wow!
When we arrived back at the classroom I began to see what was being referred to. On the white boards there were large sheets of butcher paper with lists of adjectives organized by how they described the five senses. I eventually found the "lesson plan" magetized to the white board next to these lists. It was all about "team time" and the writing projects they had been doing. They were to continue on these "projects" they had in their "writing folders" and try to take them from "sloppy copy" to "smooth drafts" on special pink-lined paper. They were all at different stages of the process. I was to rove and help with editing, spelling and suggestions for more use of descriptive adjectives at this "happy time of year". This is what I used to enjoy doing as a teacher of Language Arts. I'm sure they could sense my enthusiasm.
I could see that the regular teacher was very creative and a bit "messy"...just like I thought I used to kind of room. These were all mostly motivated and confident kids who got right to it. They were used to assignments like this and only had to be encouraged to sprinkle in a few more adjectives. There were no "templates" or formats to "copy". Everyone was doing something different, but mostly their own stories. (third grade level) For now, nothing was "turned in" but kept in their folders for future work...none of the usual "I'm done! What do I do next?" out loud announcements by the gung-ho ones. Just amazing!
This was also the class who all had their "recorder lesson" down pat when the special teacher came. We were ready for her and she did nothing but praise them for how well they all played. Since last year she had instituted "contests" class vs. class, 1/2 class vs. 1/2 class and groups of 4 or 5 vs. other groups where they chose what to perform. She even had a roll of the dice for a "prize recorder". This was a happy and proud class...highly motivated.
In the P.M. it was a slightly different story with the 5th grade. The teacher confided that the whole school (district), this school and his class was being asked to devote more and more time to "Language Arts" i.e. Reading and Writing especially. There were more warnings about disruptive behaviors and "how mean" I, the sub, really was etc. But basically, the class was mostly "on task" and motivated. We took turns reading through a "hand-out" on "Clouds" and the "fill-ins" attached. I was given the freedom to stay with it or move on to a "Persuasive Writing" assignment. I gave them a choice: Finish up the Clouds Packet or do the "Letter to the Parents"...asking for a party on Saturday. About half and half did each. The difference here was that there was a suggested "Topic Sentence", four supporting details for the body and a sample closing sentence, restating the topic sentence. Most that were turned in, stuck strictly to the "template" and didn't add any of their own descriptive, emotive adjectives to plead with their "parents. Here their collective goal seemed to be: get it done, get it over with. We then read a few pages about "watershed usage" and what happens to the precipitation from the "clouds". Most were not done with either the packet or the letter. We then had a Math-Art project of graphing on X and Y coordinates. Some students really got into this. I could see with others, it was dying...too I got out my Uke and we sang their "Holiday Show" songs for practice..."Up on the Housetop...and Must Be Santa" They enjoyed that and we slipped in some other P.C. carols. So we got some "Oral/Vocal Language Arts" into the lesson plan. In both classes we also had a visit from my "robot" "20Q" where they are fascinated to read the scrolled questions as it guesses their "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral". It teaches them how to ask "inductive and deductive questions"...just like those used in Science.RRR

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